The Malaysian unit of currency is the Ringgit (M$) and it is made up of 100 sen. Notes are in denominations of M$1, 5, 10, 20, 50, 100, 500 and 1,000 and the coins in use are 1, 5, 10, 20 and 50 sen as well as M$1.
Bahasa Malaysia is the country’s national and official language. English is widely spoken, however, particularly in tourist areas. Other languages which include Chinese, Iban and Tamil are also spoken but only by minorities so you don’t need to worry too much about brushing up on your Cantonese.
Malaysia has a tropical climate which means it gets plenty of sunshine all year round. Despite this, temperatures don’t usually become unbearably hot and generally range from about 22 to 33ºC. Because of the monsoon season which takes place between April and October in the southeast and October to February in the northeast, the average rainfall is high with most rain falling in the late afternoon. Humidity is quite high throughout the year.
Malaysia is eight hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time and fourteen hours ahead of Eastern Standard Time.
The bigger department stores and supermarkets open between 10.00am and 10.00pm daily with all other shops opening between 9.30am and 7.00pm. In most major cities, however, you will also find several twenty-four hour shops. Offices are generally open from 8.30am until between 16.00pm and 17.30pm. The majority also close for lunch for one hour between 12.00pm and 14.00pm as well as closing at noon on Saturday.
Electricity supply is 220-240V, 50 cycles.
Citizens of most countries do not need a visa for visit to Malaysia not exceeding three months. In the case of French, Greek, Polish and South African nationals, your stay must not exceed one month. You must ensure, however, that your passport is valid for at least six months after the date which you enter the country. If you are unsure as to whether or not you will need a visa it is recommended that you check with the Malaysian Consulate in your home country.
The main tourist offices in the country are run by the Tourist Development Corporation (TDC) of Malaysia and can be found in all the major towns and cities throughout Malaysia. There are also a large number of privately run offices which will answer any questions which you might have. Again, these can be found in most major urban areas throughout the country.
You will find post offices in the commercial centre of all major towns and cities in Malaysia and they open from 8.00am until 17.00pm from Monday to Saturday.
Since 1998, the Malaysian government agreed a fixed exchange rate from the US dollar to the native currency. Therefore, if you are taking foreign currency into the country it is recommended that you bring US dollars as they are the most convenient to exchange. The same applies to travellers’ cheques which are accepted by all banks as well as the larger hotels, restaurants and department stores. The best place to exchange either is in any of Malaysia’s banks which offer the best rates. They open between 10.00am and 3.00pm from Monday to Friday and from 9.30am until 11.30am on Saturdays. You can also exchange foreign currency in any of the moneychangers which are located in the larger towns and cities as well as the more popular tourist destinations.
All major credit cards are accepted in the bigger hotels, restaurants and shops but in smaller businesses or in the more remote areas of the country you may have difficulty using this facility. You can also your credit card or bankcards which are members of the bigger international networks such as Plus or Cirrus to withdraw cash where the ATM states that they are acceptable.
It is also worth noting that since 1998 all visitors to the country must declare the amount of money in their possession on entering and leaving the country. You must fill in a Travellers Declaration Form (TDF) which you can get from Malaysian Embassy, Tourism Malaysia offices and at all airports and should keep this form inside your passport when it is returned to you from Immigration.
The international country code for Malaysia is 60 so if you are calling from abroad you need to dial your international calling code followed by 60, the local area code without the first 0 and the local number. The same instructions apply when you are making an international call from within the country replacing 60 with the destination country’s area code. You should also note that the outgoing code for Malaysia is 007.
The telephone network in the country is very good and you can make direct long distance calls between all the major towns. There are Telekom card phones all over the country but you should note that there are two different systems, Uniphone and Cityphone, taking different types of cards. International calls can be dialled directly from most public phones.
A ten per cent service charge is usually added into a restaurant bill as well as the five per cent government tax. Therefore, you really don’t need to tip unless you feel that the service was exceptional. Where this is the case a tip of between five and ten per cent is sufficient. If a service charge is not included ten to fifteen per cent is acceptable. Taxi drivers also don’t need to be tipped but many people tell them to keep any small change. It is worth noting that at no time is it compulsory to tip, it is entirely at your discretion.
It is worth noting what the public holidays are before you travel to a country as the majority of businesses, banks and shops usually shut for the day. In Malaysia they take place on January 1st, 24th, 25th and 26th, March 9th and 25th, May 1st and 15th, June 2nd and 4th, August 31st, October 13th, December 19th, 20th, 21st and 25th. It is a good idea to check the particular area too as certain towns and cities also shut down during special events.